WASHINGTON—The Biden administration will soon propose new rules to require passenger airlines to refund fees for bags that are significantly delayed and refunds for services like onboard Wi-Fi that does not work, the White House said Friday.
White House National Economic Council Director Brian Deese confirmed the planned rules at a briefing that were directed by President Joe Biden, saying it is “part of a broader effort that the president will release shortly around driving greater competition in the economy in service of lower prices.”
Under existing Transportation Department rules, passengers are entitled to a fee refund if bags are lost, but not when delayed. Under the proposed rule to be released in the coming days, a “significantly delayed checked bag” is one not delivered to the passenger within 12 hours for domestic itineraries and within 25 hours for international itineraries.
Airlines for America, a group representing major airlines, did not immediately comment.
Reuters reported the planned actions by the Transportation Department earlier Friday.
U.S. airline passenger traffic has jumped with rising vaccination rates, regularly topping 2 million daily passengers, which is about 75 percent of pre-pandemic levels.
The administration proposal would also require airlines to promptly refund fees—such as for advance seat selection, Wi-Fi and other flight services—if the passenger does not receive the service or it does not work, Deese said.
U.S. airlines collected approximately $5.8 billion in baggage fees and $2.8 billion in change and cancellation fees in 2019, up from just $464 million in baggage fees and $915 million in change and cancellation fees in 2007.
The Transportation Department also intends to issue a separate proposed rule in coming months to require upfront disclosure of baggage fees, change fees and cancellation fees at the time a plane ticket is purchased, Deese confirmed.
In 2018, Congress dropped plans to mandate “reasonable and proportional” baggage and change fees under heavy lobbying from U.S. airlines.
By David Shepardson